Tony Tata honored his predecessor as state transportation secretary, Gene Conti, and gave members of the state Board of Transportation his plan for getting started as the new head of the state Department of Transportation Thursday. (See 1/8/2013 Road Worrer, "He's not 'The General,' but he's the boss at DOT," with reader comments.)
“I want to thank you Secretary Conti for all of your hard work, building such a great department, leaving a department in such good condition, and building a foundation for success for the future,” Tata said. He gave Conti a DOT in-house honor, making him a “Road Gang” member.
Conti beamed and offered a brief but cheerful farewell to his successor before walking out of the board room: “Thank you very much and, uh, enjoy it!”
Tata is a retired Army general and former Wake County school superintendent. He said his priorities are to improve the Division of Motor Vehicles, to make transportation improvements that enhance job creation and reduce urban congestion, and to improve overall efficiency at DOT. He did not describe any shortcomings at DMV or elsewhere at DOT.
“The governor’s goals for me as secretary … are first and foremost to enhance what is already a good department and enhance the customer focus on what we’re doing. And in particular within the (Division) of Motor Vehicles. So that’s going to be an initial focus area for us.
“And the second piece, the governor really wants to leverage what we do with infrastructure, and the vision for infrastructure in the 2040 plan, and take that and help it enhance the job creation in the state. Because you know the governor campaigned on increasing jobs within the state.
“And one way to do that is to make sure we’re very smart about how we’re creating infrastructure and reducing congestion in the urban areas and increasing the ability to get to the outlying rural areas. And the multi-modal piece is certainly part of that.
“And I think a third goal would be the efficiency of our organization. Are we as lean and mean as we can be? And do we have redundancy, do we have gaps that we need to fill? And how can we increase our performance, increase customer service, increase our ability to more rapidly build infrastructure while making sure we are as efficient as we can possibly be.
“And so I would say that those are the three focus areas writ large for me as a secretary and I really look forward to getting out into each of your areas and meeting with you and your constituent groups with whom you work.”
Tata promised to do a lot of traveling around the state, just as he had visited each of Wake County’s 169 schools during his first year as school superintendent.
“I think my history has shown that in the military I was sort of a front-line, foxhole kind of leader, whether or not that was as a lieutenant in the Army or as a brigadier general. Staff in Afghanistan used to say: ‘If you want to get shot at, go with General Tata.’”
Tata was speaking to Board of Transportation members appointed by former Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat. Tata's boss, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, is expected in coming weeks to replace most or all of the board members with his own appointees.